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This post is part of a four-part series. In Part 1, we looked at the mechanics of the United Mileage Plus program. In Part 2, we looked at the chart and rules to find valuable awards. In Part 3, we’ll value specific Mileage Plus awards. In Part 4, I’ll put a number on one Mileage Plus mile.

Now that we’ve looked at the rules of the Mileage Plus program, and we’ve looked at the chart to find some valuable awards, we’re going to value specific awards. As always, to value awards, we need four things:

  • the lesser of price or value of the award
  • taxes and fees paid
  • miles needed to book
  • miles foregone by not buying a cash ticket


Because the very first datum we need is the lesser of the price the award would cost and its subjective value to you, there is a subjective component to valuing awards. So these are my values for these awards. Follow along with the steps in this post to value your own awards to find your own value for Mileage Plus miles.

1. Make a list of awards you’ve booked, awards you plan to book, and dream awards. Include all classes you would consider flying. My list is below. First class is F, Business class is B, and Economy class is E. I’ve put a B even when the award includes domestic first class on a two-cabin plane because those awards still price in business class. Stopovers are represented by a double slash. (//)

HRK-VIE-AMS-IAH-LAX (E) Kharkiv, Ukraine to Los Angeles

PIT-LAX (E) Pittsburgh to LA

LAX-SYD-AKL (F) LA to Auckland, New Zealand

LAX-FRA//FRA-ARN, CPH-FRA-LAX (B) LA to Frankfurt (stopover) to Stockholm, returning Copenhagen to LA

LAX-HNL//HNL-GUM, GUM-NRT-LAX (E) LA to Honolulu (stopover) to Guam, returning to LA

LAX-IAH//IAH-LOS, LOS-IAH-LAX (B) LA to Houston (stopover) to Lagos, Nigeria, returning to LA

2. Price the awards on Sign into your Mileage Plus account, use the award search, and find the awards you’ve written down. Note how many miles and dollars in taxes and fees you would be charged to book that award. For my awards, the prices are:

HRK-VIE-AMS-IAH-LAX (E) 30,000 miles and $87

PIT-LAX (E) 12,500 miles and $2.5

LAX-SYD-AKL (F) 80,000 miles and $14

LAX-FRA//FRA-ARN, CPH-FRA-LAX (B) 100,000 miles and $129

LAX-HNL//HNL-GUM, GUM-HNL-LAX (E) 70,000 miles and $44

LAX-IAH//IAH-LOS, LOS-IAH-LAX (B) 120,000 miles and $95

I sure love those low United taxes and fees!

3. Price all the itineraries on Search the same dates. Find the cheapest flight with a comparable routing regardless of airline. If the award itinerary includes a stopover as most of my international itineraries do, search as two different itineraries on Write down the prices of the itineraries and also your subjective value of the itineraries. As usual, we’ll be using the lesser of the price and your subjective value. (What am I talking about? “Subjective value”? See this post.) Below is the lesser of the price and subjective value for my itineraries. In all cases, except Kharkiv to LAX in coach, my subjective value was lower than the price, which will always be the case when I’m flying internationally in a premium cabin.

This is how I construct my subjective values. I start with my value of a coach trip from my origin to my destination.

Then, if applicable, I add in how much extra I would pay for flying in the premium cabin that my award is in, of course factoring in the specific airline and seats that my routing will use.

Then if applicable, I add in the value of the en route stopover. If the stopover is in the US, I decide how much I would value a trip from LA to that city. I add the value of a separate roundtrip to the US-stopover city to the sum from above. Why? The stopover is saving me a separate entire roundtrip to the stopover city.

If the stopover is abroad, I only add in how much extra it would cost me to get from my destination to the stopover city. In Europe this is usually a pretty small amount because of their budget carriers.


PIT-LAX (E) $225

LAX-SYD-AKL (F) $1460




4. Figure out how many miles you’re foregoing on Use the Great Circle Mapper to figure out the distance of your routing. Add in any multiplier for the status you have on the United Airlines. This tells you how many miles you’re foregoing by using an award instead of cash for the ticket, and that’s a key component in figuring out the value of the award. I’ll skip listing this for my flights.

5. Plug the four values in the calculator! If you don’t quite understand how to use it, read this post.

[wpcalculator idcalc=”1″]

6. Order your awards from greatest cents per mile to fewest. For me, the list looks like this:

  1. LAX-FRA//FRA-ARN, CPH-FRA-LAX (B) 1.93 cpm
  2. HRK-VIE-AMS-IAH-LAX (E) 1.84 cpm
  3. LAX-HNL//HNL-GUM, GUM-NRT-LAX (E) 1.76 cpm
  4. LAX-SYD-AKL (F) 1.63 cpm
  5. LAX-IAH//IAH-LOS, LOS-IAH-LAX (B) 1.62 cpm
  6. PIT-LAX (E) 1.52 cpm


7. Put a single number on the value of a Mileage Plus mile. To do this, we’ll have to use our list of award values from above and make adjustments based on the other characteristics of the Mileage Plus program we talked about in Part 1. We’ll do that in Part 4, the final installment of the series.